Facebook Unveils Portal and Portal

Facebook Unveils Portal and Portal

However, putting history aside, Facebook chose to launch their first Facebook-branded piece of hardware today, the Portal.

Facebook has announced Portal, a series of devices that let you do voice or video calls to other Facebook and Messenger users.

Facebook has also installed Amazon's Alexa on Portal for smart home functions, a significant deal for the two companies in their efforts to dominate home technology. The $349 Portal+ has a mammoth 15-inch, 1920×1080 display that can rotate into portrait and landscape orientations. "And, when played, music will be magically synced across your Portal devices". You can save $100 when buying two of them at the same time, and these will also be available at other retailers like Amazon and Best Buy. It's worth noting that you can't browse Facebook, the social network, on the Portal.

Facebook's advantage over other video-chat services: Chances are, nearly everyone you might want to call already has an account.

Facebook expects to stand apart on the market because of Portal's touchscreen and the 400 million people who call through its Messenger service each month worldwide.

The Portal also takes advantage of the best part about Facebook: photos. The processing of users' voice commands happens on the device, not in a Facebook data centre.

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"This is going to gain (Facebook) not only a place in the smart home, but also data they may not have been able to collect before or understand before", said ABI Research analyst Jonathan Collins.

For now, the Portal and the Portal+ will be available only in the US.

Earlier in the year, it was forced to admit that the personal data of tens of millions of users had been hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, a political firm working for Donald Trump in 2016. If the video call has multiple people in the frame, the camera shifts to a wide-angle mode, keeping everyone in its bounding box. There's also a physical camera cover provided with each Portal and Portal+ unit, as well as a button allowing you to "completely" disable the camera and microphone. Thanks to Alexa from Amazon, you can initiate video calls simply by using your voice, plus a suite of AI tech makes your experience more rich. The former automatically pans and zooms to ensure that everyone is in view in a video cal, while the latter minimizes background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking. Facebook claims that they don't record the contents of your calls, and just like any other smart speaker, it only actually listens to you when you say "Hey Portal", to trigger Facebook features, or "Alexa", for smarthome and other features.

Video chatting is an important feature that most smart displays have.

"Both models are created to help you feel closer to the important people in your life and make video chats feel less like a call, and more like you're actually in the same room", Facebook said in a blog post.

Since Echo's release almost four years ago, both Google and Apple have followed Amazon in releasing smart speakers designed for use with their other digital services - some of them, at least.

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